Has Trudeau lived up to his promise to be a feminist PM?
Justin Trudeau has given us lots of quotable moments about why he's a feminist and his plans to work for gender equity as a prime minister. But does he live up to his strong words? Let's take look at what he's accomplished on feminist issues — and where there's room for improvement — in his first 100 days as Canada's leader.
1. Abortion access
On the campaign trail, Trudeau boldly tweeted: "The days when old men get to decide what a woman does with her body are long gone." What fresh words coming from a politician! But 100 days in, Canadians still don't have access to safe, publicly funded abortions in every province. On Prince Edward Island, the activist network Abortion Access Now is taking its province to court (announcing this in January), as islanders must travel out of province and pay out of pocket — which not everyone can afford to do — for publicly funded abortions.
While campaigning, Trudeau told the PEI newspaper The Guardian it was "important that every Canadian across this country has access to a full range of health services, including full reproductive services, in every province in the country." I'm also hoping he'll dial up Planned Parenthood International's federal funding when he unveils his 2016–17 federal budget.
The verdict? Trudeau is talking the talk on the need for reproductive justice in Canada, but I'm still waiting for some real action.
2. Action on missing and murdered aboriginal women
Aboriginal women and girls are "over-represented among Canada's murdered and missing women," with over 1,200 cases documented between 1980 and 2012 (according to an RCMP report). On the campaign trail, Trudeau promised to launch an inquiry into the tragic fates of these women and girls. Now, Trudeau's pre-inquiry is under way — a series of meetings between the minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, the minister of Canadian Heritage, representatives from First Nations and Inuit organizations, victims' family members and members of the police force began in January in 18 cities.
In an interview with a First Nations youth advocate for CBC, Trudeau recently admitted, "This office, this place, this parliament, has failed indigenous peoples in this country for a long, long time." And he said, in a public CBC Forum this month, that he hopes to challenge the "pervasive culture" on police forces that causes officers to value aboriginal lives less.
The verdict? Trudeau has taken some positive concrete actions on this tragic issue, but he has a long, hard road ahead of him.
3. Expanding parental leave
Trudeau made an election promise to expand parental leave from 12 to 18 months, while making changes to the Employment Insurance program, though Canadians are still waiting to see if he'll follow through with this. Some don't believe that simply expanding parental leave as Trudeau proposes will properly address gender inequality in the workplace: Queen's University professor Kathleen Lahey says it's important to focus on other needs women have, such as affordable childcare. She also points out that low-income women who don't quality for employment insurance won't reap the benefits: "So it’s essentially people in the middle and higher-income ranges who benefit."
The verdict? While parental leave needs to be expanded, Trudeau needs to rethink his approach to address the lack of affordable childcare many women face and the particular needs of low-income women.
4. Combatting domestic violence
On the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women (December 6, 2015), Trudeau issued a statement that promised his party would "introduce legislation that will provide greater support for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault." We have yet to see that legislation.
“We all have an important role to play in stopping violence against women and girls, and in denouncing misogyny in all its forms. Like all parents, I want my daughter to grow up in a safe community and a safe world," stressed Trudeau, pointing out that on a typical day in Canada, 8,000 women and children are sleeping in shelters, the majority of whom are fleeing abusive situations.
The verdict? I'm still waiting to see what concrete action Trudeau will take to stop violence against women, but I like the sound of the new legislation.
5. Gender balance in parliament
Trudeau made international headlines when he created a "gender-balanced cabinet," appointing 15 men and 15 women. When asked why gender balance was important to him, he simply stated, "Because it's 2015." The new cabinet features female members who'll help determine Canada's stance on everything ranging from the justice system and health to indigenous and international affairs and the environment. However, it's still not perfect — men still dominate the conversation. A Citizen analysis found that female cabinet members responded 46 times to opposition questions in the first week of Parliament, while male ministers responded to 98 questions, getting almost double the talk time.
The verdict? Trudeau's gender-balanced cabinet is a positive first step, but he needs to take measures to ensure female voices get heard.